Friday, January 9, 2015

Big Fat Hiatus

Life is way too busy and hectic for me to worry about keeping up three blogs.

BUT. . . 

I am still reading and still want to help others who might be interested in my opinions of children's books.

SO. . . 

I've decided to attempt a weekly children's book review blog post over at the blog where I post my newspaper column.


I hope to post the book reviews on Mondays @ The Spice of Life.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

_Dash_ by Kirby Larson

Young Mitsi is like any other girl in America after the attack on Pearl Harbor--except she's a Japanese-American. Dash explores the plight of the Japanese-American in WWII America from the eyes of Mitsi, a girl who loses her friends, her home, and her dog, Dash, when she and her family are shuttled off to internment camps.

While this is not a completely believable and realistic story since it seems that all subplots are tied up nicely and happily, it is a good introduction for younger readers to some of the tough stuff in World War II. A 10-year-old probably isn't ready for all the ugly facts quite yet, but this book gives lots of hooks to hang knowledge on down the road.

With the idea of friendship permeating the entire book, I think this book would be right up most girls' alleys. Best of all, Mitsi is the kind of girl that most of us would like to have as a friend.

This probably doesn't deserve any major awards, but it's not a bad book at all. It will especially appeal to kids who love dogs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

_Out of the Dust_ by Karen Hesse

This is a Newbery Medal winner, and I did like it. Through poetry, Hesse chronicles a year or so in the life of Billy Jo, a 14-year-old girl living out the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. It’s not a pretty story; it’s a tale of hardship and sadness. But in the end, there’s hope and healing.

My biggest caution is that I wouldn’t recommend this to a child much younger than the 14 of the main character. It is emotionally intense in some spots.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

_The Memory Bank_ by Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson

This is one of those books I just grabbed randomly from the library shelf. It sat in our library book tote for awhile and was then picked up and pored over by our three not-yet-readers. They loved the pictures. When I finally picked it up, I also enjoyed looking at the pictures before I started reading it.

Then I started reading it. It definitely has the feel of Matilda (by Roald Dahl) in that Hope's parents are just about as miserable at parenting as parents can be. They leave Hope's younger sister, Honey, on the side of the road simply for breaking the "no laughing" rule and tell Hope to forget about her. Somehow Hope finds herself being questioned at the World Wide Memory Bank because she wasn't depositing enough memories.

For me, the story went downhill from there. To be blunt, it was boring. I kept getting the feeling that the whole book was an allegory for something, but I simply didn't care enough to try to figure it all out. It had something to do with memories, forgetting, dreams, hope, and parenting.

I suppose there's nothing in this book that shouts, "Keep away!" But there's not much compelling either. Except the pictures are nice.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

_Rules_ by Cynthia Lord

On the surface, this book reminded me of the many, many books I read as a pre-teenager that dealt with finding a friend and fitting in. Certainly, I figured, there would be a healthy portion of teen angst and wishing for that first kiss. I was sure the main character, Catherine, would be so totally embarrassed by her entire family and only want to hang out with her friends.

But that's not how Rules reads. You see, Catherine does want to make friends with the new girl next door. And she is a bit jealous of the fact that her whole family life revolves around the needs of her autistic brother, but she is no shallow teeny-bopper. She is a realistic character with depth and compassion. I liked her a lot. I would have liked to have her as a next-door neighbor.

This novel also gives some insight into what life with an autistic loved-one is like. Only one character seems a bit one-dimensional, and he is an antagonist who makes fun of Catherine and her brother.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. The main character was a good role model for girls, not too concerned with fitting in and very concerned about doing the right thing. I would recommend this book for a girl in the 11 and up age range.

Friday, August 8, 2014

_Ladybug Girl at the Beach_ by David Soman and Jacky Davis

When my oldest daughter was but a wee babe and crawling about on the floor, she enjoyed eating ladybugs. While I found ladybug remnants in all three older brother's diapers, she had, by far, the most.* That, plus the fact that lots of people bought her ladybug-themed clothing, sort of caused me to associate her with ladybugs.

This spring when she turned 5, she received another ladybug gift-- a book by David Soman and Jacky Davis. Ladybug Girl at the Beach is one of several books about Lulu, aka Ladybug Girl, a young girl who loves wearing her ladybug outfit. This girl reminds me of my daughter. Headstrong. Sensitive. Energetic. Enthusiastic.

In this particular book, Lulu joins her family for a day at the beach. She just knows she loves the beach, even if she's never been to it. Once she sees the big waves, however, she's not quite as excited. Over the course of the day, Ladybug Girl learns to overcome her fear.

This is a fun picture book. My daughter wanted to read more like it, so we checked a few out at the library. I like that each book teaches a nice lesson (about being brave, saying you're sorry, etc.) without hitting you over the head with it. Best of all, they can open discussion with your own girl about important topics. My own daughter isn't often receptive to such talks, but using these books as a starter, she was immediately engaged.

*Please note that our rural, woodsy location puts us in the way of seasonal invasions of both ladybugs (or Asian lady beetles, to be more precise) and stinkbugs. We try to keep them vacuumed up, but we don't always win the battle. There are just that many of them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

_A Gathering of Days_ by Joan W. Blos

This is a Newberry one. It's subtitle is "A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32." The front cover clarifies this by telling us it is "a novel by Joan W. Blos." That's good to know.

Anyway, to be honest, it's kind of hokey. I really doubt that even in 1830 a 14-year-old girl would write this formally in a journal. Then again, maybe she would, but it's a bit difficult at first to "bond" with Catharine Cabot Hall, the main character. Later, I tried to pretend I wasn't reading a "journal," and that helped me enjoy the story without dwelling on what a lame journal it was.

The issues of slavery, adapting to a step-parent, and death of a loved one are prominent in this novel. As a plus, nothing jumped out at me as majorly offensive or inappropriate. I guess I would recommend A Gathering of Days, but I do wish a Newberry Medal meant that it was completely delightful literature. 

And really, I guess it's not as bad as I make it out to be. When I was younger, I probably would have enjoyed reading it more than I do now.